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Strategy

What do Facebook’s newsfeed changes mean for marketers?

Estimated read time: 15 minutes

Facebook announced big changes to its newsfeed at the end of last week that will affect anyone who manages a Page on the big blue behemoth. We were planning on writing something about it today, but then our brilliant friend Matt Horne posted what you’re about to read and kind of nailed it. So, we asked Matt nicely and reposted his piece instead.

Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Matt’s blog – do take time to check out his site and explore more of his writing. Also, don’t forget Matt was part of our social media panel of higher education marketers last week – you can check out Matt’s interview in full, along with all our other panel sessions too.

You might have heard in the news this week that Facebook are changing their Newsfeed.

They announced, via their blog and Zuck’s personal Facebook page, that big changes are coming and, in a nutshell, they’re going to be taking a lot of the posts Pages make out of the Newsfeed in favour of posts from friends and family. People didn’t take the news too well.

Scary shit if you run a page and do most your social media marketing through organic Facebook. But is it that bad?

If you’ve been around Facebook for a long time, you’ll know this isn’t the first mass panic about a change they’ve made. Remember all those “Bring back the old Newsfeed” campaigns from 2009, 2011, 2013 etc? The company are all about change. It’s just now, when they make a change it affects over 2 Billion people and a lot of businesses from small to large.

So what does it all mean, what changes can you make to strategy to help mitigate any problems? After having a few days to digest the news I’ve pulled together some thoughts on the whole thing on how it might affect social media marketing, both for higher education and other industries. Where quotations are provided they have been taken from the Newfeed FYI post or Zuck’s own Facebook post.

It’s not just Newsfeed

This is something that seems to be missed from all the headlines. It’s not just changes to Facebook’s Newsfeed that they’re making. It’s the whole product family.

We’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.

So that could include Messenger, Facebook Live, Watch,  Stories, Groups, and dare I say even Instagram.

This isn’t a new change

The main themes from the announcement is connecting friends and family with meaningful posts.

you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.

This isn’t a new thing for Facebook, they’ve been announcing changes that are meant to do this for over 2 years. It’s been a slow shift, but not one people didn’t see coming   The reduction in organic reach has been going on for a long time now. If you’ve had your head in the sand hoping organic reach would always be there that’s on you.

It could be a good thing

Now this is more related to universities rather than publishers and small businesses, but this change could be a good thing for HE organic reach. And here’s my thinking:

This change is about increasing the number of posts in Newsfeed that drive meaningful interactions and conversations between friends. It’s about building and strengthening communities. And that’s kind of what universities are there to do on Facebook.

They have a strong community base, their content is around a shared experience and should be providing engaging emotional content that their student and alumni audience can relate to. Like this:

A Christmas Surprise

It's hard being apart from your loved ones during the festive period. So for students who couldn't be with their families over the winter holidays we threw them a Christmas party… with a very special surprise. 🔊🔊 for extra Christmas cheer!Merry Christmas everyone! 🎄#UofGChristmas #TeamUofG

Posted by University of Glasgow on Sunday, December 17, 2017

Sure, it might mean sharing links to every single research story and admin based content are no longer worth posting- but that should give universities time to concentrate on the really impactful content that puts across their institution’s values and experience and helps remind not only their current students and alumni how awesome it is to study there, but also future students. Like this

There’s no place like home 😊❤ #MyNCLPics

Posted by Newcastle University on Saturday, January 6, 2018

And as there are less posts from other businesses and brands coming in to the Newsfeed, maybe that’ll mean there’s more room for this amazing content to shine through? Just a thought.

It might not be as bad as some people are saying

This update is by no means true “Facebook zero” where there is no more organic reach.

Page posts will still appear in News Feed, though there may be fewer of them.

In fact, some pages may not be affected at all. The truth is, no one knows what the full effect will be. Going from their blog post, even Facebook don’t know, either that or they’re just hiding behind being vague.

But if you want hope that there’s still going to be some use for organic on Facebook it’ll be in this:

Page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed.

But you have to have content that does that without conducting “engagement bait” and request likes, comments or shares.

It will make Facebook a place for premium content

Now more than ever it will be a time to say no when someone asks you to “just post it to Facebook”. To make sure your page survives and still gets reach, all the content you put out needs to be engaging.

Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution.

And for Facebook, engaging content is still mainly live video.

live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook – in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos.

So if you want to keep getting that organic reach, it’s going to require a pivot to high quality live video that encourages engagement.

Oh and you know what premium content gets? Eyeballs, eyeballs that spend a long time looking at premium content that Facebook can charge advertisers more to reach.

It might help focus your attention on improving other channels

Facebook might be the big boy when it comes to social media channels, but there are plenty of others out there. Have you ever found yourself saying “I really must improve our presence on x” or “In this quarter we’re going to crack x” well now’s your chance.

Instead of focusing on what the Facebook algorithm wants you to do, 2018 could be the year you finally shift more resource to another channel – and hopefully reap the rewards.

And if you want it to be one where you can still have content for Facebook, maybe think about YouTube. Just remember the different ratios. YouTube is very much still 16:9 where as Facebook prefers 4:5.

A lot of presentations and strategy documents are going to be re-written

It was probably on your 2018 to do list anyway, but now January is the month you definitely have to re-write anything you had that was talking about using Facebook for organic marketing.

There’s going to be a sudden increase in the number of groups

In 2017 Facebook provided the ability for pages to link Groups and run them as admins. In this update they’ve stated Groups are one of the things people will see more from in their Newsfeed.

you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.

So guess what Zucks, the natural thing Pages are going to do now is create groups and push their followers to join them, turning Groups in to the new Pages that post the same content you don’t want filling the feed to fill the feed.

This will probably only be a quick fix though before more tweaks come to the algorithm to downrank Groups that do what ever it is Facebook decides is bad content next.

You’ll still need to optimise for Facebook

Just because your Page won’t get much visibility sharing your website’s content, doesn’t mean other people won’t be sharing it. So you need to make sure your content is optimised for social sharing so you can have control over how it’s presented on the network.

Get your metadata locked in tight (because personal posts can’t edit headlines and images), make sure there are subtitles on your videos and make sure the content is easy to share.

It’s Facebook telling people what they want

And I couldn’t say it better than this:

Facebook are again dictating what content they want people to see, rather than what people actually want to see. Kind of like when critics tell everyone Game of Thrones is the greatest TV show ever and the public respond by making the Big Bang Theory the most popular show on TV.

Economist tv popularity statistics

It’s not happening overnight

Although they’ve said the changes will start rolling out over the next week, it will also take a few months for the full effects to be seen.

Over the next few months, we’ll be making updates to ranking so people have more opportunities to interact with the people they care about.

That gives everyone a chance to keep doing what they do for a few weeks, look at the results and if their content has been affected and then think about what they need to do next.

Now more than ever it’s important to stop and take a look at how all the content you’re pumping out performs. Benchmark, change and experiment then look again to see if things have improved.

And remember, Facebook don’t always get things right the first time. Lets not forget when they announced they were tackling fake news with all kinds of measures, they still ended up listing dubious news sources in their “trending” panel for big stories. It’s going to take them month’s to get this right. And right could mean a reversal of the whole thing.

Facebook will still be a huge channel for advertising

Nothing in their release mentioned the reduction in paid posts in the Newsfeed. In fact, if they’re moving a lot of organic content from Pages out of Newsfeed, that clears up a lot of inventory for potentially more paid posts to appear.

With the huge amount of data Facebook holds on users, not just of their platforms but also of third party websites, and the insane targeting options for campaigns, Facebook is still going to be one of the best places for digital advertising.

It may not have pages boosting posts any more, but that was never the best way to run ads on the platform. This change will force businesses to start running proper campaigns, with higher spend.

So what do you think? Will you be deleting your Facebook Page, starting a Facebook Group or putting all your eggs in Twitter’s basket now?

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